Thursday, January 14, 2010

America vs. Europe - Opinionator Blog - : The Evolution of Capitalism

At the New York Times Opinionator Blog, David Brooks and Gail Collins discuss capitalism from the standpoint of America vs. Europe.

One of the great misconceptions about American capitalism vs. capitalism in Europe is the myth that American capitalism takes more risks - and the blog commenters to this dialogue between Brooks and Collins raise the cutting edge question "at whose cost?"

Make sure you read those comments on this topic - some are quite brilliant.

Our take is that if the current financial crisis has taught one lesson that should be understood by all, it is that the risk-taker is often not the capitalist, and that the credit risks that were taken by the financial establishment did their greatest harm not to the wealthy capitalists or the capitalist institutions themselves but rather was a harm inflicted on the non-risking American taxpayer.

There are clear differences between capitalism in America and Europe, but this has more to do with the culture of venture capital rather than with any capitalistic differences in fact. Silicon Valley is the best example of this. Which "capitalist" there truly risked his neck to get a start-up going? As any real capitalist will tell you, the smart entrepreneur works with other people's money - usually OUR money, that of average citizens - through the financing credit institutions. That is the name of the game.

On an ancillary issue of health insurance, being without health insurance has nothing to do with risk-taking but is rather a social evil which every industrial country in the world has solved decently by national health insurance of some kind. Wrongly mixing capitalism and investment up with taking care the health of a nation's citizens is just foolish and antiquated.

Many people in the United States need to be alerted to the fact that we are no longer in the 19th century and that the entire capitalistic ball game has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. Those who doubt that statement might be interested in the following presentation by Nancy Koehn, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and author of The Story of American Business: From the Pages of the New York Times, October, 2009, who discusses "The Evolution of Capitalism" at BigThink:

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